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If a believer is learning to love and to speak the truth in love, he will find himself at odds with the rest of the world. Ephesians 4:17, 18, 19, 20 says,
17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness [pleonexia, “avarice, greedy desire to have more”]. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way.
The Ephesians were Greeks, and the believers among them were either Greeks or Jewish converts to Christ. The Greek lifestyle was the outworking of their pagan religions, which in turn were the product of carnal minds, “being darkened in their understanding.” This darkness, Paul says, was compounded by both ignorance and hardness of heart. The Greeks had “given themselves over to sensuality” and “every kind of impurity.”
The phrase “with greediness” (NASB) was not meant to insert the idea of being greedy for money but is connected to “impurity.” The Greeks were addicted to that which God says is impure—primarily, “sensuality.” But, as believers, we follow a different path.
In Paul’s day it was illegal to preach Christ in the streets. They were allowed to hold personal views as long those views remained in their homes. That is why they developed house churches. The exception was at Mars Hill (the Areopagus in Athens), where different ideas were allowed to be discussed. Paul took advantage of that place in Acts 17:22-34.
Greek Lifestyle Today
In the modern world, we face a similar situation. The so-called “60’s revolution” was a move to legitimize sexual relations apart from marriage. This was followed by the legalization of abortion in the 1970’s. Later, it was the legalization and promotion of the gay movement in the 1990’s, topped off with gender identity and the destruction of the man-woman construct itself.
Now, if anyone holds the views common to the 1950’s, he is considered “far right.” In fact, it is the world that raced to the left. We did not change our position. But yet they treat us as if we who remained fixed upon a true believer’s lifestyle were the ones who moved to the right. While the world was taught the way of the Greeks, we “did not learn Christ in this way.”
Strangely enough, this impure type of lifestyle is largely limited to the western “civilized” nations that have been influenced by the third beast of Daniel’s prophecy (Greece). The West has not only adopted this lifestyle for itself but has also made it part of the definition of culture and civilization. Yet most other nations, being family oriented, view it with shock or amusement.
Those who advocate a Christian lifestyle are insulted and treated as anomalies, and some have been arrested. If this continues, it will soon be illegal to preach the gospel of Christ. Their goal is to outlaw true Christianity altogether, because it does not conform to their sensual and impure lifestyle. It has been asked: If you were arrested and charged for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
Lifestyle of the New Man
Paul continues in Ephesians 4:21, 22, 23, 24,
21 If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life [lifestyle], you lay aside the old self [“old man,” KJV], which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind [your spirit’s mind], 24 and put on the new self [“new man,” KJV], which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Paul reminds us that “truth is in Jesus,” for Jesus Himself said in John 14:6,
6 … I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Though the world is offended by such a claim, we who believe in Him have abandoned the world’s reference point of “truth” and have placed Jesus as our standard of truth. This is because we have laid aside—put to death, actually—the old self, or old man of flesh, and now live according to the godly principles of our new identity.
This new identity, or new self, has a mind as well, which Paul refers to as “the spirit of your mind.” This is “he who is spiritual” whom Paul described in 1 Corinthians 2:15, contrasting this spiritual “man” with the “natural man,” i.e., the soulish man of Adamic flesh. As I have said, we have three minds, the brain for the body, the soulish mind of the soul, and the spiritual mind of the spirit.
In that we follow the mind of the spirit, we show that we are new creatures, having abandoned the identity of the carnal mind passed down from Adam through natural childbirth. We have been begotten by God as a new self with a new conscious awareness that is “in the likeness of God.” In other words, Paul tells us that the lifestyle of our spiritual mind was what Adam enjoyed prior to the entrance of sin. Paul says that Adam was “created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Our new man is designed to succeed where Adam failed.
Godly and Ungodly Anger
Ephesians 4:25-27 says,
25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Truth is in Jesus; falsehood is any belief that fails to conform to the likeness of Christ, who is the measure of all truth. Hence, the apostle admonishes us to “speak truth” to each other, and, of course, to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), for if truth is not spoken in love, it cannot conform to the image of Christ. Loveless truth, at best, is only fact. The soulish man deals in facts, for it cannot conceive of a higher standard. Godly truth does not set aside facts but includes the love factor, because God is love. Sterile facts may destroy; truth is redemptive, because Jesus, who is Truth, is a redeemer.
Paul says, “be angry, and yet do not sin.” There is an anger that is godly, for we see how Jesus was angry when the priests had turned His Father’s house into a den of robbers (John 2:14, 15). Jesus drove the bankers out of the temple, yet did not sin. It was a prophetic act, led by the Spirit. Unfortunately, some have used this to justify their own carnal anger, not recognizing the difference between fleshly anger and Holy Spirit anger. There are many “righteous” causes, enough to keep us constantly angry in life, but we ought to limit our anger to those things that the Holy Spirit directs us to address. Otherwise, we are only acting religiously.
Never go to bed angry, and do not give any opportunity for the devil to conform you into his image.
Ephesians 4:28 says,
28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
The godly principle set forth here is that one owns his labor. God labored to create all things, and therefore He owns all things. We take what God has created and add value to it by our labor. So we too own the fruit of our labor. Theft violates this principle, for it steals the labor of others. Hence, employers should pay fairly for the labor of their employees. Government has no right to steal the labor of God’s people (over and beyond the tithe, which is a lawful tax in support of godly government).
Further, Paul shows that we should labor to produce more than we need, so that we “have something to share with one who has need.” Paul was not advocating Socialism. Socialism forces people to share the fruit of their labor, thus disrespecting the sanctity of labor. Those who labor must retain the right to determine what to do with the fruit of their labor. Nonetheless, those who are led by the Spirit will be glad to produce excess wealth so that he may assist those in need.
Wholesome and Timely Words
Ephesians 4:29 says,
29 Let no unwholesome [sapros, “corrupt, rotten”] word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Some words are curses, others are just crude or downright rotten. We should ask ourselves if our words proceed from the new man or the old man. Do our words edify or tear down? Truth spoken in love edifies us (builds us up). There is also a need for timely words to specific people, “according to the need of the moment.” So we read in Proverbs 15:23,
23 A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word!
In fact, when spiritual gifts are in operation, a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge can be extremely edifying. I recall vividly my first experience in 1982 when a prophet spoke “a timely word” in my time of great need. It edified me beyond comprehension and showed me the importance of spiritual gifts today.
Ephesians 4:30 says,
30 Do not grieve [lypeo, “grieve, make sorrowful”] the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
The Holy Spirit is not merely an impersonal force, as some believe. The Holy Spirit can be grieved, and, indeed, is often grieved by the things believers do prior to “the day of redemption.” This day would be “the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).
Ephesians 4:31, 32 concludes,
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Bitterness, anger, and “all malice” are things that grieve the Holy Spirit. We are admonished to “be kind to one another.” Simple acts of kindness are a delight to the Holy Spirit. But because so often believers are yet caught up in bitterness and malice, those who are mature are called to forgive each other, following God’s own example.
Forgiveness, however, should be less and less necessary as the believer grows in spiritual maturity. The Holy Spirit’s baptism of fire is a purifier (Matthew 3:11, 12). Purifying one’s inner bitterness and malice is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in one’s life. If there is no such evidence, then one has to question whether or not the Holy Spirit really indwells that person.